Georgia Football: Michael Bennett Could Be X-Factor vs. Missouri

David BoutinContributor IIISeptember 4, 2012

ATHENS, GA - OCTOBER 01:  Michael Bennett #82 of the Georgia Bulldogs fails to pull in this reception against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on October 1, 2011 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Michael Bennett might just be the most underrated player the Georgia Bulldogs have on their roster. When the Dawgs travel to Columbia this Saturday to take on the Missouri Tigers in both teams’ SEC opener, Bennett may just be the X-factor if the Dawgs are going to take down Mizzou at home and start conference play with a W.

Bennett consistently put up good numbers in 2011. He had a catch in all but two games last season and notched five receiving touchdowns.

But it’s not just what’s on the stat sheets that makes Bennett such a valuable asset for the Bulldogs. As evidenced in last week’s game against Buffalo, Bennett’s motor is constantly running, and he’s out there every play doing whatever he can to help his team win.

Tavarres King benefited from a couple of great blocks by Bennett to spring him on wide-receiver screens. Even when he was away from the play, you could see Bennett flying around the field looking for someone to hit.

And when he did have the ball thrown his way last week, he delivered. In fact, Bennett put up his second-best single-game numbers in his career against the Bulls, tallying five catches for 76 yards. He also displayed his physicality and great hands on a fourth-quarter touchdown catch over a defender in the end zone.

The Bulldogs are definitely going to need Bennett to have another great day against the Tigers on Saturday if they’re going to start 1-0 in conference play.

Getting the start in Week 1 at split end opposite flanker King, Bennett has proven to coaches that he knows the offense and is capable of running great routes. Georgia is going to need those skills against Mizzou’s talented cornerbacks Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines.

King has been Murray’s favorite target since last season, save Malcolm Mitchell, who has shifted to defense for the beginning of this season to help out at cornerback. Look for King to draw attention and double coverage, leaving Bennett with one-on-one coverage and some chances for big plays on Saturday.

And as good as he is receiving, look for Bennett to contribute in other areas as well.

Georgia will, hopefully, come out pounding on an undersized Missouri defensive line and try to establish the run. After Todd Gurley’s performance against the Bulls in Week 1, that would seem a viable strategy for offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

But when Gurley and fellow running backs Keith Marshall and Ken Malcome do get to the second level, look for downfield blocks from the likes of Bennett to help turn good gains into long runs and possibly even touchdowns.

Bennett’s strong work ethic has also led to him being one of the best-conditioned players for the Bulldogs, and this has earned him time on the special teams as well.

After coming out looking fairly flat in the opener last week, Georgia players need to look to the example set by Bennett’s physical and energetic play. Anything less than 100 percent effort by the entire Bulldogs’ team might just spell an upset in Columbia and another slow start in the SEC for the Dawgs.